Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has voiced concerns that Friday prayers conducted in the Dharumavantha Mosque in the capital city Male’ are conducted by Imams who do not hold state-issued authorisation to preach.
Shaheem emphasised the importance of putting an end to the practice of Dharumavantha Mosque conducting Friday prayers in a manner different from all other mosques in the country. He furthermore said that he had personally received reports that the sermons given in the mosque preached a “stricter, more extreme ideology [of Islam]”.
“In the Maldives, we follow the practices of Sunni communities, especially when it comes to matters concerning religion. And then [they] refuse to pray in other mosques behind authorised Imams and form their own prayer congregations elsewhere. The ‘Imams’ conducting Friday prayers at Dharumavantha Mosque do not have permits to lead Friday prayers, nor are they even well-educated. I’ve also been informed that sometimes very extreme preachings are made by them,” Shaheem said on Sunday, speaking to local media.
The minister added that mosques in the capital are now under the jurisdiction of the Male’ City Council, and that the Islamic Ministry no longer has the mandate to act against any “undesirable activities” being carried out in mosques.
Mosques were transferred from being under the watch of the Islamic Ministry to the councils in late 2011 after the ratification of the Decentralisation Act.
Shaheem stated that he had nevertheless worked to ‘reform’ people who attended these prayers with the help of various religious scholars who provided advice to these individuals.
A Male’ City Council official noted that Councillor Hassan Afeef is in charge of overeeing mosques. Afeef was not responding to calls at the time of press.
Dharumavantha Mosque (Miskiiy) is recorded to be the oldest mosque in the country, according to the former National Center for Linguistic and Historical Research.
The mosque, which is exclusively for men, is a one-room structure with an attached veranda, located near Sultan Park.
Dharumavantha Mosque is attributed to Mohamed-Ul-Adil, the first Sultan of the Maldives, who was the first to enforce Islamic law in the country.
On March 6, 2013, the mosque was robbed and vandalised. The matter was reported to police by those attending early morning prayers.
Police have so far not publicised details of the investigation, and the case is believed to remain unsolved.
Dharumavantha Mosque is the only known mosque in the capital which refuses to read out pre-written sermons issued by the Islamic Ministry during Friday prayers, as is the current practice.
Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was not responding to calls at the time of press.